The following interview contains SPOILERS for The Boys season 2, episode 6, “The Bloody Doors Off.” This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Shawn Ashmore plays Lamplighter in The Boys season 2, allowing viewers to finally meet the infamous ex-Seven “supe” who callously murdered Grace Mallory’s grandchildren. The character’s description throughout the first season sets him up as another one of Vought’s reckless, dangerous “superheroes,” fitting among the ranks of A-Train, who murders his own girlfriend, and Homelander, a sociopathic Superman analog. Yet, Ashmore brings a softer energy to the role than expected, defying audience expectation and even challenging viewers to sympathize with the disgraced “hero.”
Screen Rant had the opportunity to sit down with Ashmore and discuss his approach to playing Lamplighter in The Boys season 2.
You’re obviously super excited about playing Lamplighter in The Boys season 2. Did you see the show before being cast? Were you familiar with the property at all before you got the role?
I watched the first season and loved it. Unlike most superhero properties — I’ve read Marvel stuff, DC stuff, Image, Darkhorse… I’m a big comic book guy, so I’ve read those books — but I had not read The Boys. I had no idea what to expect when I watched the first season. I didn’t know how dark it was going to be, how funny it was going to be, how violent it was going to be… so I loved it. I had no preconceived notion of what the show was going to be, and I was like “oh my God, I love the tone.” It’s the superhero show that I didn’t know that I needed.
I was kind of getting burnt out on all the superhero stuff — the Marvel, the DC… I love that stuff, but it was just a very familiar tone, like everything was kind of similar. This was so different to me that I was like, “wow. I love this.”
Ya, it’s definitely refreshing.
When the opportunity to be on season 2 came along, I jumped on it. I was like, “yes, absolutely — I want to be a part of this.” I loved the character. For me to come back to the superhero genre, this was completely what I was looking for. Literally the polar opposite of Iceman — in attitude and ability. I was really into going along for that ride and doing something that was completely different.
I’m glad that you brought up Iceman. Obviously, people know you as Iceman from the X-Men movies, starting all the way back in 2000. It’s a polar opposite character. Did that inform your approach to Lamplighter at all?
No. I obviously was in on the joke. And I think my casting of Lamplighter was very intentional, you know, giving the middle finger to the normal superhero establishment, as The Boys does. I just tried to approach the character as was on the page and the way that Eric [Kripke] presented the character to me. So it wasn’t like tongue-in-cheek, “I used to play Iceman so now I’m playing this” — I just think the circumstance for people in the know kind of presents, like “hey! There’s the guy who played Iceman, and now he’s doing something completely different.”
A bit of a metafictional wink.
Yes! Exactly. So if you’re not familiar with it, it won’t effect your enjoyment at all. It’s a character The Boys has been talking about since season 1, and there’s this preconceived notion of who he is and what he’s done — and then you meet him. And hopefully that will change the audience’s view. What he has done — he did murder Mallory’s kids, that’s a fact — but the reasons behind it, and how he feels about that, I think, is what’s interesting about Lamplighter — and what he does about that.
How he’s living in the present is much different that I thought when I was watching season 1 and hearing about Lamplighter. I had preconceived notions of who he’s going to be and how he’s going to be, and I liked how what Eric and the team created was a different version of that character than I had expected. To me that was very interesting, and another reason why I thought this was a very fun character to play.
What I find remarkable about Lamplighter and how you play him is actually what you just touched upon: he’s such a human character. Can you walk us through your process to make him seem like such a realized, three-dimensional human being, and not the two-dimensional “bad guy” that people expected from season 1?
Most of it I can’t take credit for because it’s all in the writing, and — maybe aside from Stormfront, because we haven’t seen her background yet — all of the Supes, I don’t look at any of them as villains. Even Homelander — he does horrible, horrible things, but when you look at his background, and how he became who he is… to me, Homelander’s story is the most tragic. In the first season, when he’s walking around doing the reality tour of his house, and he finds his blanket and freaks out… then it cut to the flashback of him being an infant and being tested on, alone, in a cell in a lab… it broke my heart. And it makes you realize that‘s why he can’t interact with human beings, why he can’t have a normal interaction on any level. His humanity was taken from him at a young age. He’s a tool. He’s being used by Vought. In that way, Vought is the villain.
Even the Supes who are doing these horrible things, they’re all being used. That was already established when I came on, and that’s how I saw the show. That’s how I looked at the Supes, and that’s how I looked at Lamplighter. Lamplighter is a human being who was given something — an ability as a child — and was lied to about it… now he’s coming to terms with that. And coming to terms with the bad things he did to be a part of the Seven. Now he’s being discarded, and he’s like “I don’t have the Seven, I don’t have the fame, I don’t have the fortune, I don’t have the notoriety — I’m just alone now, and being forced to kill people for nothing.” And he just has to deal with that. That’s a very human thing.
I think all the Supes have that in them — they’re just people being used by powerful systems, and structures, and corporations. Lamplighter is no different. Ultimately, he has huge regrets for what he did. That being said, what I think makes him interesting is that he still strives for and desires that fame, even though he hates it, and he hates what [Vought] made him do. So there’s a lot there, a lot of layers to that character, and a lot of that was established. That’s what the show’s about in a lot of ways.